Monday, May 03, 2010

better than half-baked

(This is the second in a series of notes I'm posting to facebook, at the request of a friend who is turning over a leaf with healthy activity and nutritious eating - I thought I'd share them on my blog too.)

When we bought our house, the stove and fridge came with it. That was nearly 20 years ago. Over the years these two kitchen appliances have worked tirelessly and with few problems to serve our family.

A couple of years ago, the electronic control on the oven went on the fritz. It became increasingly difficult to turn the oven on to any specific temperature. We despaired, because a new range costs a lot. Our friend Tom came to the rescue with a kitchen reno. He handed us down his relatively new stove and fridge - a blessing.

Our new stove is great, but we have discovered that the oven is violent and unpredictable. It does turn on to your specified temperature without fuss, thanks to a much less complicated control. But it has a thermostat/burner clearly unsuited to the delicate work of baking cookies to a lovely golden grown. Without warning, it turns itself into a kiln, or something that you use to incinerate old mining trucks when you are finished with them. I have seen it turn raw dough into blackened nuggets in the blink of an eye.

We have adjusted our baking habits, placing an extra cookie sheet under pans to protect the delicate bottom of a lasagna, and watching carefully while things bake, so we can TURN IT DOWN! TURN IT DOWN! Even with all this adversity, I manage to bake a couple of times a week. I enjoy the whole grain goodness of home baking. And despite the dashing, gnashing and TURNING IT DOWN, I still find baking a relaxing endeavour. Here are a couple of healthy recipes. *Please note: eating a whole batch of even the healthiest item is not healthy. Bake up a batch and if you must, freeze portions, or better yet, share it so it's eaten up while still fresh and yummy.

Granola Biscotti - from the back of the granola bag but "healthed up"

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup brown sugar (don't scrimp - sugar makes the dough tender and prevents hockey puck cookie syndrome)
1 cup granola
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter or marg
2 tbs milk (orange juice would also be good)
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350
2. In a medium bowl, mix up the dry ingredients (down to and including the cranberries)
3. Make a hole in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir these in to make a sticky dough
4. Put a piece of parchment on a large baking sheet, and make 2 logs of dough (each about 2 inches wide).
5. Bake the logs until golden on the outside - about 25 minutes.
6. Take the logs out of the oven. Turn the oven down to 325. Let the logs cool 5-10 minutes outside of the oven.
7. Slice the logs into 3/4 inch wide slices. Put these cut side down onto the baking sheet. Return them to the oven for about 10 minutes until they are toasty, but not hard as rocks.
Makes about 16 small biscotti

Banana Blueberry Yogurt Oatmeal Muffins (from Canadian Living Magazine but whole grained up)

1 banana - mashed
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup yogurt (plain or fruit - whatever you have)
1/4 cup veg oil or melted butter or marg
1 egg
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1. Heat oven to 375
2. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin
3. In a medium bowl, mix up the wet ingredients, down to and including the egg
4. Dump on top all of the dry ingredients and the blueberries. Stir just to combine. Don't mix more than you need to.
5. Spoon into the muffin cups
6. Bake about 25 minutes until golden
Makes 12 muffins

Easy Pizza with Persian Flatbread

Take one big package of that Persian flatbread - the kind that you can fold up. It's full of holes and has sesame seeds on it - you know the kind. Cut it with scissors to fit your baking sheet. Lightly oil the baking sheet with a bit of olive oil so the pizza doesn't stick if the toppings melt through the holes.

While the oven heats up to 400, put the flatbread on the baking sheet. Then add the toppings that you like:

First the sauce - here are some ideas:
tomato sauce - canned sauce or home-made - even some tomato paste with salt/pepper/oregano
pesto - homemade or from a jar
olive oil with garlic crushed in

Then the toppings - your choice
veggies - onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, zucchini, corn, kale - I mostly like to saute them before I put them on, but they'll work raw if you use thin slices
proteins - meats, tofu, chicken, cheese (try combining cheeses - not just mozzarella - try feta, goat cheese, whatever you have)
tasties - olive slices, hot peppers, garlic slices, capers

Bake the pizza about 10 minutes until it's bubbly and golden on top. Cut with scissors to serve. It's good hot or cold.

Leftover Persian flatbread makes great paninis - think grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with whatever yummy bits you can find in your fridge.

So there are a few ideas for using your oven. Baking at home is a satisfying experience. The results are infinitely more delicious and nourishing than anything you can buy at the store. As a home baker, I'm picky about the baked treats I accept from other places. Not much at the coffee shop or on the tray at the staff meeting can beat what I make at home, so that makes it easier to turn down a doughnut or say no to a giant cookie entombed in plastic wrap. They just aren't good enough for me. Even with my zorchy old oven, I can do better than that.

question: do you bake?

mompoet - smelling the cookies in my kitchen

1 comment:

Pearl said...

with a wonky stove, I'm surprised you do as much as you do.

the recipes sound good. once you home bake, I agree, the grocery store fare looks pretty sad.